Viola orbiculata “Darkwoods Violet” Violaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

There are only two species of Violets with leaves that persist through the winter in the PNW; the Darkwoods Violet and the Evergreen Violet (V. sempervirens). West of the Cascades moist forests are rife with V. sempervirens (a PNW endemic) while V. orbiculata is primarily found farther east (but can also be found in the west, typically in montane zones). Both have yellow flowers and similarly-shaped leaves and were once thought to be the same species.

Clintonia uniflora “Queen’s Cup” Liliaceae

Olympic National Park, WA
June 5, 2013
Robert Niese

In spring, these plants bear a single white flower and regularly pop up in fields throughout the moist PNW understory. In the fall, the flowers will turn into blue berries which are mildly poisonous to humans, but are a favorite food of the Ruffed Grouse.

Marchantia polymorpha “Common Liverwort” Marchantiaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Liverworts are ancient plants that likely resemble their very first ancestors that colonized land 450 million years ago. Liverworts have male and female fruiting bodies (antheridia and archegonia, respectively) that produce either sperm or eggs. These cute little flat-topped umbrellas are the antheridia and are producing sperm. The next time it rains, these sperm will find their way to a fingery-topped umbrella (the archegonia) to fertilize eggs and produce a new plant. These particular liverworts were abundant in the dense understory of a recently burned site along with the Goblet Fungus, Geopyxis carbonaria.

Mitella (Ozomelis) stauropetala “Smallflower Miterwort” Saxifragaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Chiefly found east of the Cascades, the Smallflower Miterwort is a common resident of moist, dense forests of the Pacific Northwest. Up to 35 flowers grow on leafless stems from a rosette of palmately lobed leaves. 

Lupinus argenteus var. argenteus “Silvery Lupine” Fabaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Our two most common Lupines in the Missoula area are the Silvery and Silky Lupines (L. argenteus and L. sericeus, respectively). You can easily tell them apart by the upper petals on their flowers (called the “banner” in papilionaceous pea flowers). In the Silvery Lupine (pictured here), the backside of the banner has no hairs, while the Silky Lupine has a dense coating of hair on its banners. In our area, Silvery Lupines that grow in the dry soils of Ponderosa Pinelands and have folded leaflets are of the var. argenteus

Paruroctonus boreus “Northern Scorpion” Vaejovidae (Scorpiones)

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, WA
April 7, 2013
Robert Niese

Scorpions are a remarkably poorly studied clade of organisms. The Pacific Northwest is home to at least two described species (although there are likely others that remain undescribed): the Pacific Forest Scorpion (Uroctonus mordax) and the Northern Scorpion (Paruroctonus boreus). The Pacific Forest Scorpion, as its name would suggest, is most often found in dense coastal forests wherever it can find constant moisture (also found inland as well, west of the Cascades). The Northern Scorpion tends to prefer more open habitats than the Forest Scorpion and is typically the only species one will encounter east of the Cascades here in the PNW. They are quite abundant at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park where they spend their days hiding from the sun under large rocks.

Polemonium pulcherrimum var. pulcherrimum “Jacob’s Ladder” Polemoniaceae

Missoula, MT
April 25, 2015
Robert Niese

Jacob’s Ladder is an abundant wildflower found on talus slopes or rocky outcrops throughout lower elevations of western Montana. However, in Washington, these plants, while equally common, are restricted to sub-alpine zones and are regularly found above the tree-line.

Viola adunca “Hookedspur Violet” Violaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

The Hookedspur Violet is an abundant, easily recognized flower found throughout the Northwest. In our area it is readily distinguished from other purple-flowered violets by its long spur (not shown here) and its lance-ovate or near-cordate-ovate leaves. 

Ribes lacustre “Spiny Swamp Currant” Grossulariaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

East of the Cascades, the Spiny Swamp Currant is the most common member of Ribes in shady, wet areas of dense coniferous forests. Their berries, like most Ribes are edible but quite unpalatable.